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Pop Culture

Rihanna's sign language interpreter goes viral for her performance during Super Bowl halftime

She's the MVP of ASL.

justina miiles, rihanna, rihanna halftime show
@RJiggie/Twitter

Justina Miles werk werk werked it.

Rihanna might have delivered an iconic Super Bowl halftime performance, but some are hailing Justina Miles, her American Sign Language interpreter, as the unexpected star of the show.

Miles is being applauded for the way she perfectly matched the pop diva’s energy as she mouthed the lyrics to hits like "Rude Boy," "Work" and "Umbrella" while leaning into ASL’s inherently expressive movements. The whole thing felt like its own choreographed routine, and fans were here for it.

One video posted to TikTok showing Miles doing her thing with "B---h Better Have My Money" has already gone mega-viral at more than 11 million views.

@sainthoax #superbowl #rihanna ♬ original sound - Saint Hoax

“This gonna be the next TikTok dance trend,” someone commented.

Meanwhile on Twitter, someone declared Miles as the “true” half-time star. And that was only one of many, many, many people who had nice things to say.

Miles is hard of hearing herself and has a deaf mother as well as multiple family members with mixed hearing abilities. She previously came to online fame back in 2020 for her version of Lil’ Kim’s 1997 “Crush on You” music video, where instead of just mouthing the words, she signed them in her distinctive flair.

The video, which was part of a viral TikTok challenge, received a flood of support online and even ended up reaching Lil’ Kim herself. Miles clearly has a knack for bringing hip-hop music to life with infectious enthusiasm. No wonder she was matched with Queen RiRi.

Prior to her halftime performance, Miles performed an equally enthusiastic ASL rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black national anthem, during the Super Bowl’s pre-show.

Though she’s clearly having fun, Miles considers the moment as a win for more than just herself. During a press conference leading up to the event, she shared that for her, being the first deaf performer to interpret this song “was a chance to bring empowerment to millions and millions of Black deaf people all over the country who have never really seen that before. I feel that is truly lifting every voice, even my voice.”

“I value the opportunity to make it possible for all deaf people to enjoy these songs, and not have them miss out on the full Super Bowl experience,” she said in an interview with CNBC. Her aim is to not only entertain, but encourage others to “not to let any obstacles prevent you from achieving your dreams, and to always believe in yourself to go beyond.”

It’s great that we are not only making culturally mainstream events like the Super Bowl more accessible to different communities, but in turn, more people are able to connect with less mainstream ways of life. When we allow more space for different forms of expression, it’s easier to see that, language aside, we're all moved by performances that make us feel. Thanks to Miles, many people got to enjoy music in a whole new way.

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